Miniature Pinschers

A little dog with a big attitude and a bigger mouth, the Miniature Pinscher has no idea that he isn’t as big as the Doberman. He'll charge right up to any threat, including a dog many times his size. He'll try to protect his family, chase cats out of the yard, and sound the alarm when he thinks it's necessary – which is constantly. And although he'll fit in your puppy purse, he won't like it there. This is a dog with a mind and a will of his own, not an accessory.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Don't let his designation as a "toy dog" fool you. Similar to his much larger cousins, the terriers, he'll dig, bark and chase anything that moves, including squirrels and cats and quite possibly other dogs. Unless he's well-bred and well-socialized -- and sometimes even in spite of such advantages -- he's prone to being a nuisance barker, suspicious of strangers and not great with children.

He's also a bold and bright companion dog, agile, trainable and with a famous -- or infamous -- sense of humor. He's eager to participate in family outings, long walks and organized canine activities like agility and obedience. But the real secret of his success as a pet is his deep love and loyalty for his owner.

And it's both his virtues -- affection for people and a clever nature -- and his faults -- tendency to dig, bark and chase wildlife and cats -- that make him entirely unsuited for the outdoor life. The Miniature Pinscher is a companion dog and he needs to live indoors as a member of your family. Making that even more critical is the fact that the Min Pin is the Houdini of the dog world, and he's very unlikely to be contained in your yard, garage, or high-security canine enclosure.

His short coat does shed, so he needs to be brushed a couple of times a week to keep it under control. Other than that, keeping his ears cleaned and his nails trimmed is all that's necessary in the way of grooming. And keep him lean; his small frame is not meant to support a lot of pounds. An overweight Miniature Pinscher is at risk of a number of health problems.

Because of his tendency to become protective and territorial, the Min Pin needs gentle and consistent training from puppyhood on to control his nipping as well as any tendency he has to bark inappropriately. Also like many small dogs, Miniature Pinschers are difficult to house-train; firmness and consistency are the key to success here.

Variations of the Miniature Pinscher

The Min Pin stands around 11 inches or so at the shoulder, and comes in a number of shades -- reddish, brown, and black with tan or rust markings, as well as a steely gray (ineligible for the American show ring) and the light tan known as fawn. His tail is usually docked, and his ears are sometimes cropped, although many people prefer them in their natural condition, and dogs with natural ears can be shown in the United States. In the United States, the Min Pin has been bred to have a characteristic "high-stepping" gait, which is considered a serious fault in his native Germany.

Health Issues Common to Miniature Pinschers

The Miniature Pinscher is at risk of a number of genetic health problems. As with most small dogs, their knee joints are often not very stable, and can get knocked out of position easily -- the common condition known as "luxating patellas." This is one of the reasons it's essential to keep your Min Pin on the lean side.

As is often the case with small dogs, the hip disease known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs in Min Pins. It causes a reduced blood supply to the head of the rear leg bone, which then begins to shrink. The first sign of Legg-Calve-Perthes, limping, usually appears when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old. Treatment is surgery to remove the head of the leg bone, after which the puppy will have a relatively normal life other than an increased likelihood of arthritis.

The most serious breed-related condition that affects the Miniature Pinscher is a rare disorder once thought only to affect humans and cats. Known as mucopolysaccharidosis, or MPS VI, it's a genetic defect in the way the body processes certain sugar molecules. A build-up of unprocessed sugar molecules causes many of the body's joints to become deformed, as well as the spine and sternum. It can also caused eye cloudiness and facial deformity. A DNA test exists to identify dogs who are affected, carriers, and normal. Breeding two carriers can produce affected puppies, so never buy a puppy from a breeder who cannot give you written documentation from the Josephine Deubler Genetic Disease Testing Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania that the parents were not carriers.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease High $1,000-$3,000

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Miniature Pinscher Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. Because of their popularity and their small size, Miniature Pinscher puppies are frequently exploited by puppy-millers and other breeders with easy profit on their minds. If you're tempted to buy a puppy at the mall to go with the purse you just picked up, resist. Not only will you be supporting a cruel and abusive industry, your carelessly bred Miniature Pinscher will be at much greater risk of developing health and temperament problems, and being even more difficult if not almost impossible to house-train.

Be sure to follow the advice of the Miniature Pinscher Club of America and seek out a responsible breeder who has agreed to abide by a Code of Ethics that prohibits selling puppies to or through pet stores.

Ask your breeder to provide you with written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that your puppy's parents' hips are healthy and their knees free of patellar luxation. Also expect to see Canine Eye Registration Foundation clearance, issued within the previous year, on the parents' eyes.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in the Miniature Pinscher aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Miniature Pinschers can live 12 years or longer, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Miniature Pinscher to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Miniature Pinschers

Pet insurance for Miniature Pinschers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Miniature Pinschers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Miniature Pinschers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Miniature Pinscher is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.